Legislature Drops $62,000 Bomb On Andover School District

By Bill Bardsley, Andover Budget Committee

The state cut its contribution to the New Hampshire Retirement System, leaving $62,000 to be paid by the Andover School District for the 2011-2012 fiscal year that just ended June 30. This action was reported to the Andover Budget Committee at an October joint meeting with the Andover School Board and SAU administrators. The $62,000 was added money the School District had to pay into the retirement system trust fund for its teachers and staff after the legislature dropped the state’s contribution from 2.8% the prior year to zero for 2011-2012.

The district had to cover this 2.8% plus a dictated increased payment for teachers from 10.7% to 11.3%. None of this was known to the Andover School Board (or any other school board in the state) until June 29, 2012, one day before the end of the fiscal year and more than 15 months after the budget involved had been approved at the March 2011 School District Meeting.

Happily, in Andover there were big savings in last year’s school expenses because of the easy winter, which cut maintenance costs at AE/MS, and fewer tuition students than had been projected at Merrimack Valley High School. These savings provided a surplus for the year which more than covered the $62,000. Without the surplus, the School Board might have had to come back to the district voters with a special meeting to fund this 1.4% budget increase.

For the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year, there is another required increased payment by the district from 11.3% to 14.16% for teachers and from 9.16% to 10.77% for staff. SAU business administrator Robin Heins estimates about $35,000 more will be needed to cover this in the budget the district will consider next March’s School District Meeting.

These are not one-time expenses. The $62,000 and the $35,000 will remain there in the budget for Andover taxes to pay for every year hereafter unless a new legislature brings back the state’s contributions.

By the way, the burden did not grow heavier just for the district budget. Teachers and staff all had to raise their payments into the retirement trust fund from 5% to 7%.

And the shock did not apply only to the School District. One Town employee also is on the state retirement plan. That cost adds about $4,000 more to this year’s Town expenses.

In other business, the Budget Committee elected Bill Bardsley as chair, Jeff Newcomb as vice-chair, and Mary Ann Levesque as secretary, and set its schedule for budget meetings and hearings leading up to the 2013 Town Meeting and School District Meeting in March:

Wednesday, November 7: Village District; Fire Departments

Wednesday, November 14: Police Department; Emergency Medical Service; Library

Wednesday, November 8: Highway Department; Transfer Station; Recreation Department

Wednesday, December 5: Town

Wednesday, December 12: School District

Wednesday, December 19: Meeting if needed

Wednesday, January 9: Public Hearing on Town Budget

Wednesday, January 16: Public Hearing on School Budget